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Students study city taxi operations

Council member Tom Caflisch gave high marks at the council meeting Tuesday night to a group of UW-River Falls students who, as part of a no-action agenda item, produced a detailed study about the River Falls Shared Ride Taxi Service.

He said it was nice to see the students doing a community-focused project in the real world that also helps the city.

The students -- Justin Gillis, Gina Redetzke and Tyler Stehr -- presented their findings flanked by professors Juliet Tomkins and Steve DeWald. They explained that the project was completed through business-related experiential learning.

City Finance Director Julie Bergstrom suggested studying the service and analyzing potential ways for River Falls to reduce its expense.

The city pays about $42,000 per year for the service, which costs a total of about $254,000 per year to operate. The difference comes from federal and state sources.

Seniors and disabled citizens pay $1.50 per ride, and others pay $2.75. The students recommended gradually raising all fares to break even, as well as a number of marketing measures including restaurant table plaques and flyers at the university.

Council members asked if increased volume would require more drivers, hours and money. The students replied that they'd analyzed what existed but hadn't made projections.

Bergstrom answered yes to a question about if changes to the service could affect the subsidies -- yes, they would decrease if the city either broke even or made money on the taxi service.

Council action

Among the items the council approved with one vote on its consent agenda:

  • Agreed to advertise for legal-services bids as part of its policy to revisit purchased services every few years; the Eau Claire-based firm of Weld, Riley, Prenn and Ricci has provided legal counsel since 2001, with Bye, Goff and Rhode providing them for 18 years before that.
  • Voted to appoint Mayor Dan Toland, Council Member Scott Morrissette and Community Development Director Buddy Lucero to a committee charged with re-opening talks about a boundary agreement between River Falls and the town of Kinnickinnic.